Arakans sentenced to hard labor for refusing Myanmar census

Many Rohingya have previously refused to register as "Bengalis" because they say the term implies they are illegal immigrants from neighbouring Bangladesh.

Arakans sentenced to hard labor for refusing Myanmar census

World Bulletin/News Desk

Eight Arakan Muslims (Rohingya) from Northern Maungdaw Township in Arakan State were sentenced to two years for refusing to participate in census conducted by Myanmar Border Guard Police, Rohingya Blogger reported.

Myanmar's national government gave around a million members of the persecuted Arakan Muslims a bleak choice: accept ethnic reclassification and the prospect of citizenship, or be detained.

On August 1st, 2014 the Border Guard Police conducted a census in the name to register Arakans as illegal Bengali immigrants. As the census referred to Arakan Muslims as illegal Bengali immigrants the villagers refused to participate. Although the whole village refused, nine were targeted and arrested, according to the report. One of them was released on that day and eight were tried and sentenced to two years prison with hard labor.

The court decision was made on December 2, 2014 at Maungdaw Township court, according to locals. They were tried under Burma panel code 353 which is assaulting a public servant during the time they are on duty. The arrestees didn’t convince anyone in the village to refuse participation in the census nor organized any event to deny the unofficial census conducted by BGP. They simply stayed at home not willing to participate if the term ‘Rohingya’ is forbidden. The authorities targeted against them for the term “Rohingya” and they were punished unjustly.

During the hearing at the court, the families were not allowed to attend and the arrestees were not allowed to hire a lawyer.

Ages of the eight Arakan Muslims who were imprisonment for two years with hard labour are ranges from 17 to 50.

Most of Myanmar's 1.1 million Arakan Muslims already live in apartheid-like conditions in western Rakhine, where deadly clashes with ethnic Rakhine Buddhists in 2012 displaced 140,000 people, mostly Rohingya.

The government plan proposes Rakhine authorities "construct temporary camps in required numbers for those who refuse to be registered and those without adequate documents".

Many Rohingya lost documents in the widespread violence, or have previously refused to register as "Bengalis", as required by the government under the new plan, because they say the term implies they are illegal immigrants from neighbouring Bangladesh.

Rights advocates say it could potentially put thousands of Rohingya, including those living in long-settled villages, at risk of indefinite detention.

The government will offer citizenship for those that accept the classification and have required documentation.

Many Arakan families have lived in Rakhine for generations. They are stateless because the government does not recognise the existence of the Rohingya ethnicity, and has to date refused to grant the majority of them citizenship.

Accepting the term Bengali could leave the Rohingya vulnerable should authorities in future attempt to send them to Bangladesh as illegal immigrants.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 20 Aralık 2014, 21:58